Pteranodon (name meaning "Toothless Wing") is a genus of large pterosaur that originated during the Early to Late Cretaceous period in what is now North America and South America as well as Europe. It is said to be among the most famous pterosaurs. Perhaps the most characteristic features is a crest projecting off the back of the skull.
Era & DiscoveryEdit
Pteranodon lived during the Early to Late Cretaceous period from 125–65 million years ago. Pteranodon was first discovered in 1870 by Othniel Charles Marsh. Since then, their fossils have been found in various places across the world.
Pteranodon, especially the bigger and older males, was a large pterosaur compared to other pterosaurs. The largest known specimen of P. longiceps had a wingspan of roughly 20–30 feet (6–9 m) from wingtip to wingtip and weighed between 20–100 kg. A second larger but more controversial specimen of another species, Pteranodon sternbergi, had a wingspan of about 32 feet (10 m). However, recent scientific finds suggest that P. sternbergi is a separate genus called Geosternbergia.
Pteranodon had a toothless beak. This suggests that Pteranodon lived primarily on fish and other small marine animals. Pteranodon also possessed a cranial crest. The size of the crest differentiated between genders and species of Pteranodon.
Pteranodon were excellent fliers and gliders. The wings of Pteranodon, though large, were more fragile than bird wings, and much more thin. They were leathery and naked (the body of Pteranodon was possibly covered in fur) and could be easily damaged. A ground Pteranodon was vulnerable both to predators, such as Tyrannosaurus rex and to starvation.
Behavior & TraitsEdit
Pteranodon often swarmed in huge numbers and although not related to birds, it lived in a manner similar to the modern sea birds, such as the albatross. To escape predators, to catch the thermals, and to be close to the sea, Pteranodon lived and nested on top of high coastal cliffs and mountains, especially by shorelines. There it nested and raised its young. Female Pteranodon laid eggs and made nests like modern seabirds. They would then need to provide food for their offspring. Surprisingly, males and females were both fiercely defensive of their nests and territory, attacking any intruders that entered or even came near their nests.
Pteranodon spent most of its life in the air. It probably only landed to mate, to nest and to rest. The diet was small reptiles and fish, as fish bones have been found in their ribcages. It hunted by dipping its lower jaw into water and skimming it until they detected prey. Pteranodon would then snap its jaws together and would then fly away. It has also been suggested that they dived for fish by folding their wings back, similar to a modern-day gannet. Any Pteranodon that could fly because of illness or injury would either starve to death or would be eaten by predators.
Pteranodon was a fish-eater, and hunted out at sea, far away from the coast. There, it either dove into water like the modern gannets, or picked fish from the surface of water, like the frigate birds and the albatross. In its turn, it was prey both to large marine reptiles like Tylosaurus and to large fish like Xiphactinus.
Despite Pteranodon being described as a normally passive animal, they have been known however to be carnivorous, and were much more vicious and aggressive. Therefore, they were known to, given the chance, attack and subdue large smaller animals and then rip their torsos open and devour their internal organs.